By Owen Gleiberman
Updated August 10, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT
Sofie Van Mieghem

The Devil’s Double is a drama about the man whose job it was to pretend to be Saddam Hussein’s older son — which makes the movie sound like a footnote to a horror show. It is, but what a footnote! Dominic Cooper plays both the volatile, out-of-control Uday Hussein and the saddened, very controlled Latif Yahia (the film is based on Yahia’s 2010 book), who was chosen by Uday to be his ”brother,” double, and sadistic plaything. Cooper turns the role of Uday into a hair-trigger psycho showpiece. With the face of a deranged Freddie Mercury, he doesn’t just chew the scenery — he tears at it like bloody meat. The Uday we see is a leering, drug-addled pig who plucks schoolgirls off the street, and Cooper gives a performance so sociopathically charged he makes Tony Montana look like a Merchant Ivory butler.

It’s never clear why Uday wants, or needs, a double. (Unlike his father, who comes off as the reasonable Hussein, his idea of a public appearance is yelling things at a disco.) The director, Lee Tamahori, seems attracted to this story because it allows for a ’70s-style superorgy of bad behavior. We’re watching one man rape and destroy whatever he can while the other simply tries to survive. I’m not sure what it all adds up to, but The Devil’s Double puts its hooks in you and keeps them there. B+

The Devil's Double

  • Movie
  • R
  • 108 minutes
  • Lee Tamahori